To our surprise, we ended up speaking at some length with a women (I would say girl, because she seemed to be around my age, but that seems to be diminutive) who was very impressed with our abilities. She had learned to chant Torah for her Bat Mitzvah, but when we asked her what had changed today (why she won't read), and she told us she started "learning Torah" (the connotations of which can be fully developed some other time). She began to talk to us about how a woman's voice was a very private part of herself, and it is something she loves to share with other women, and will one day share with her husband, but not with men in general.
There is something I find very disturbing about this idea. It completely understand the idea that some things are meant to be kept private, but the idea that the voice is one of them is hard for me to swallow. If the voice is considered a personal private part of a woman, are not her thoughts even more private? Maybe I'm totally off-base here, but sometimes I feel like certain interpretations of Judaism are really headed in the direction of cutting women off completely from the larger community; of making their ideas and their contributions negligible, or even dangerous. Thoughts?